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54 years ago…

LARRY KASSOUF | opinion@lbknews.com | Source: Longboat Key News

Pipecrafters yard at 7:20 a.m.
Broadway Avenue and Miles Park Avenue
Cleveland, cheap Ohio
Summer 1957

54 years ago… My father would check for any last-minute changes in scheduling before he dropped me off for work at the Van Aken job. He would then go on to the other job sites the company had, order but he would return often to the Van Aken job throughout the day, as this was the largest and most complex job the company had. At the end of the workday, he would be there to pick me up.

Pipecrafters was a pipeline construction company. They installed water, sanitary sewer, storm sewer, natural gas and telephone lines. This would be the first of many consecutive summers in which I worked as a common laborer for my father’s company. The money was great, and in one year I would have a driver’s license. A car was in my scope!

My first job each morning was to collect, clean and fill all of the kerosene lamps that had been placed out at quitting time the evening before. Being the youngest and newest employee on the crew that was installing a 60-inch storm sewer line from Shaker Square to Warrensville Road along Van Aken Boulevard (a five-mile stretch), I was given the least desirable chores by the foreman of the crew. However, putting out the lights at the end of the day was a serious matter, since these lights directed traffic away from dangerous conditions for 16 hours of each day. I was proud to earn the trust of the foreman after the appropriate training period.

After completion of the kerosene lamp task, I would be dispatched to the ditch where the crew was placing 60-inch sections of storm sewer pipe. They were five feet tall and eight feet long. Each section had a hole in the top middle of the pipe to hold the attachment from the enormous crane, which placed the sections of pipe in the ground. They also had a joint where each section joined the previous section. Both the hole in the top middle of the pipe and the joints required sealing with hot tar. The inspectors would come at the end of each day to confirm this had been done properly.

At a height of just over five feet, I could literally stand in the pipe and do the second worst job on the project, ‘inside tar man.’ Of course, the worst job was the kerosene lamp detail. Each joint was sealed with hot tar from the inside to keep leakage to a minimum and to ensure that each section of pipe remained aligned properly. The hole on top was also sealed with a plug and tarred from the inside. Between the lights and the tar, I earned my credentials with the foreman, the laborers and the various heavy equipment operators. It was, however, the day laborers who became my friends and mentors.

The laborers were a mixture of Appalachian whites, Blacks, and Italian and Eastern European immigrants. They were singularly the most prideful people I have ever been around. I learned a lot about people and how to treat your fellow voyagers from the day laborers at Pipecrafters.

They never loafed around and always helped each other complete a task. They were not limited in their thinking about the jobs they were tasked. If they could do a job more efficiently and improve the end product by extra effort, they always did so without fanfare. The only “atta-boys” they required were internal or from each other.

They arrived for work on time, took the allotted 30 minutes for lunch and quit on time. They appreciated the opportunity to work and showed that appreciation by working hard all day. They arrived for work clean and neat and left dirty, sweaty and tired. They taught me that it takes just as long to learn a bad habit as it does to learn a good habit. They taught me how to get on with a job, get along and share with others. Additionally, I learned how to make wine, smoke ribs, make sausage, cook food on the manifold of a truck engine and find the best bakeries in the neighborhoods of Cleveland.

At the end of my workday my father was there to pick me up. We would return to the Pipecrafters yard to wind up the day’s company business, then go home for dinner. My father would look at my dirty, sweaty being, slap me on the back and say nothing. I could, however, see the pride in his eyes and the recognition of a job well done. My friends at Pipecrafters made this possible.


Graton Day Labor Center Celebrates 10 Years

By LAURIE WEED | SEBASTOPOL CORRESPONDENT | Thursday, March 31st, 2011 | Source: Sebastopol.Towns.PressDemocract.com

Graton Day Labor Center Celebrates 10 Years

Yadira Flores, left, is taught English by Sebastopol volunteer Liz Finn at the Graton Day Labor Center, Tuesday March 29, 2011. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

As the Graton Day Labor Center turns 10, Dr. Loco’s Rockin’ Jalapeño Band will be on hand to celebrate the anniversary with its award-winning blend of Mexican-American rhythm. During that decade, the center has come a long way from its humble beginnings, evolving from a hiring hall into a nonprofit organization with two full-time and two part-time staff who serve about 70 workers a day, depending on the season.

“The workers themselves do a lot to keep the center going,” said hiring coordinator Omar Gallardo. The population of workers has increased significantly, with many arriving from the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico.

“What we have now is the result of a true collaborative effort between the workers, volunteers, neighbors and community leaders,” said Christy Lubin, a longtime volunteer and Graton resident who chairs the Center’s board of directors. The need for organizing immigrant labor in the town became apparent many years ago, she said, when residents became concerned about the growing numbers of laborers who were camping out near the creek.

Graton Day Labor Center Celebrates 10 Years

Two year-old Jesus Hernandez accompanied his uncle Luis Gutierrez to the Graton Day Labor Center, Tuesday March 29, 2011 as he checks in to find work. The wet winter has led to a slowdown of labor jobs, equating to a a larger pool of workers looking for employment. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2011

“A group of volunteers came together to work on the issue because we didn’t want an ‘us and them’ mentality to develop,” she said. “We’re all human. We have a responsibility to make sure people in our community are not living outdoors without clean water or toilets.”

The group’s early efforts included serving free coffee at Mexico Lindo on Saturday mornings, and inviting people in to discuss the workers’ needs. From there a basic hiring system evolved, first operating from a card table in front of the Graton Community Club. It took several more years for the larger community to reach consensus on a physical hiring hall for day laborers, and to work out the logistics of space, support and services.

Among the needs they address, education has always been a priority. “All workers have basic human rights,” Lubin said, “whatever their immigration status.” The Center educates workers on their rights, and on their responsibilities as employees and community members. “Employers need to be educated, too,” she added. While wineries and vineyards do some of the hiring, a lot of the work comes from homeowners who need help with landscaping, cleanup projects and home improvement. The Center acts as a mediator, ensuring that fair labor arrangements are made and upheld by all parties.

“We are offering a service to employers as well. They know the person they are hiring has been ‘vouched for,’ and every aspect of the job is communicated clearly,” said Lubin.

In addition to managing labor, the Center provides housing referrals, access to health care, and English tutoring, all free of charge to the workers. It also functions as a social gathering place. Most of the people it serves are far from their homes and families, with no social network here. “Even when there is no work available, they always have a place to go, something productive to do and a feeling of belonging, of being a part of the social fabric.”

Saturday’s event will include a performance by Santa Rosa’s Imaginists Theatre Collective. A Mexican dinner will be available for , along with beverages, with all proceeds benefiting the Center.

Benefit Concert for Graton Day Labor Center

Featuring Dr. Loco’s Rockin’ Jalapeño Band

Friday, April 8. Doors open at 7 p.m., show begins at 8 p.m.

Sebastopol Community Cultural Center, 390 Morris Street, Sebastopol

Tickets: $25-50 sliding scale, available online or by calling 829-1864

Children enter free; no one turned away for lack of funds


Press Contacts

Contact: armando carmonaarmando@ndlon.org 951.966.6500 Member Organizations Contact Info:WEST COAST REGION MEMBERS CHIRLA (Los Angeles, CA)213 353 1333 IDEPSCA (Los Angeles,CA)213 252 2952 Malibu Community Labor Exchange (Malibu, CA)310 317 4717 Pomona Day Laborer Center (Pomona, CA)909 397 4215 Centro Laboral de Graton (Graton, CA)707 829 1864 Day Worker Center of Mountain View (Mountain View, CA)650…


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